Beyond self-care: considering ways the sector can support the wellbeing of staff and volunteers

Posted 30th October 2023 in Sector news

The recent State of the Nation in Suicide Prevention report released by Suicide Prevention Australia provided a snapshot of the key concerns of the sector and their perceived needs. One of the questions listed within the report asks respondents to specify things that they require to fulfil their job responsibilities. Survey respondents listed workplace suicide prevention training and initiatives to support sector staff (e.g. vicarious trauma training, self-care, and resilience building) as essential to their role in mental health and suicide prevention.

The mental health and suicide prevention sector is frequently encouraged to engage in self-care activities to support their mental health and wellbeing, shifting the onus onto individuals to be responsible for their wellbeing. The message can sometimes be received by those working in the sector that it is up to individuals to control their reactions to environments and events that they are exposed to in the mental health and suicide prevention sector.

Individuals do indeed play a large role in the maintenance of their wellbeing. Still, given individuals are all working in a sector where they are exposed to emotionally charged content, distressing situations, and tragic loss, there is room for the sector to grow and show leadership in the provision of supportive environments that are based on the wellbeing of its people.

As leaders, employees, or volunteers working within the sector, it is important to consider how sector employees and volunteers may benefit from training and resources that focus on the prevention and management of vicarious trauma, self-care, or resilience building.

Self-care certainly has a place within the sector as a way in which we can support our wellbeing. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines self-care as ‘the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.’ The WHO explains that we cannot practice self-care, unless our environments enable self-care. The WHO states that self-care should act as an extension of the health system, not as the solution to maintaining our wellbeing.

With this in mind, the mental health and suicide prevention sector is encouraged to consider how it supports those actively working and volunteering within the sector, to identify ways that an environment can encourage self-care, and identify and enable other ways in which we can build resilience and prevent vicarious trauma or distress in its staff and volunteers.

Subscribe to eNews

Keep up to date and sign up to the Life in Mind eNews, sharing some of the latest news and research in suicide prevention.

Sign up now